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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

GENIUS AND POVERTY
exclamation 'Here is another of those monstrosities!' Abel
decided not to call on Gauss. Thereafter he disliked Gauss
intensely and nicked liim whenever he could. He said Gauss
mote obscurely and hinted that the Germans thought a little
too much of him. It is an open question whether Gauss or Abel
lost more by this perfectly understandable dislike.
Gauss has often been censured for his 'haughty contempt' in
this matter, but those are hardly the right words to describe his
conduct. The problem of the general equation of the fifth degree
had become notorious. Cranks as well as reputable mathemati-
cians had been burrowing into it. Now, if a mathematician to-
day receives an alleged squaring of the circle, he may or may
not write a courteous note of acknowledgement to the author,
but he is almost certain to file the author's manuscript in the
waste-basket. For he knows that Lindemann in 1882 proved
that it is impossible to square the circle by straight-edge and
compass alone - the implements to which cranks limit them-
selves, just as Euclid did. He knows also that Lindemann's
proof is accessible to anyone. In 1824 the problem of the general
quintie was almost on a par with that of squaring the circle.
Hence Gauss' impatience. But it was not quite as bad; the
impossibility had not yet been proved. Abel's paper supplied
the proof; Gauss might have read something to interest him
intensely had he kept his temper. It is a tragedy that he did
not, A word from him and Abel would have been made. It is
even possible that his life would have been lengthened, as we
shall admit when we have his whole story before us.
After leaving home in September 1825, Abel first visited the
notable mathematicians and astronomers of Norway and Den-
mark and then, instead of hurrying to Gottingen to meet Gauss
as he had intended, proceeded to Berlin. There he had the great
good fortune to fall in with a man, August Leopold Crelle
(1780-1856) who was to be a scientific Holmboe to him and who
had far more weight in the mathematical world than the good
Holmboe ever had. If Crelle helped to make Abel's reputation,
Abel more than paid for the help by making Crelle's. Wherever
mathematics is cultivated to-day the name of Crelle is a house-
hold word, indeed more; for 'Crelle' has become a proper noun
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